Sunday, April 14, 2024

Where We Live: Greek Revival manor with room for friends and family

Even though the homes on the North River sit on large waterfront lots with all the privacy one could ever want, the neighbors still know each other’s names.

Sometimes, they’ll come around by boat to visit; other times, they’ll ring to let you know when dolphins can be spotted out playing in the river.

“People are very close-knit here, especially on the water,” said Whitney Guest Sisler, who lives in the community with her mother, S. Clayton Wiltshire.

The deep water is one of the reasons Clayton bought the property back in 1999 with her late husband, Harris Wagenseil. The couple was in the market for waterfront property and lots of acreage. Though Harris grew up in Southern California, the couple had ruled out house hunting on the Pacific.

“We decided we can’t go to California—the houses are just on top of each other,” Clayton said.

In addition to deep sailing water and room for animals, Harris wanted to bring Clayton, a native Virginian, back to her roots. Though the family originally had been house hunting in the Northern Neck, their realtor showed them Oak Hall.

For Clayton, it was love at first sight. The Greek revival manor, built in 1918, had incredible views and, at 52-plus acres, plenty of land for horses, chickens, cattle, sheep, and even peacock.

But one family member still needed convincing.

“My son was anything but happy about the move,” Clayton said. “He wanted ‘bright city lights’. In order to try and woo him I said, ‘when school is out, let’s bring a bunch of your friends over for the weekend.’ We called it Camp Ware Neck. They came back year after year.”

Camp Ware Neck kicked off years of entertaining friends and family at the estate. But first, the house needed renovating.

Clayton made many updates, from landscaping and fencing to decor and structural fixes. Avocado green linoleum was out; oil paintings by John Court, an internationally-renowned local artist, were in. Whitney, who has a design background, helped with the interiors.

The main house wasn’t the only structure on the property that needed work.  A two-bedroom guest house, originally built a century ago for the servants, also needed to be renovated.

This building, Clayton and Whitney learned, was originally called the No House, because back when it was built there was to be absolutely no interaction between the sexes.

The top and bottom floors, designated separately for males and females, were inaccessible to each other from the inside; rather, each had a private entrance from the outside.

To make the space suitable for modern-day use, Clayton put in a spiral staircase to unify the levels, plus a bathroom and a kitchen; guests can see the horses that live just a few feet away from the windows.

Clayton is planning to rent out the No House as well as that of the Dog House, another exterior structure that Clayton built for her husband in 2001. It originally served as an office, and is now a cozy guest house overlooking the river.

The space was named the Dog House for a number of reasons. It has a subtle golden retriever motif inside; a painting by John Court hangs just inside the entrance depicting Harris and his beloved golden retrievers. But frankly, “it made me giggle to tell people my husband was in the Dog House,” Clayton said.

In addition to the two guest houses, the family renovated a milk house, which currently serves as a garden shed and workshop. The property formerly housed a beautiful three-story barn facility, but a lightning strike in 2013 burned it swiftly to the ground.

The property also has one of the only, if not the only, private protected boat basin on the North River. The boat basin keeps boats safe during a storm.

Overall, there’s a lot on the property to see and even more to appreciate, like the proximity to the airports, which makes it easy on friends and family when they come to visit.

“In about an hour you can be home and enjoying all that river life has to offer,” Whitney said.

To learn more about the home, click here.

Where We Live is a weekly feature looking at homes in the Historic Triangle. Do you have a home, on or off the market, that our readers may be interested in seeing? Let us know at

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